Regular readers will know we frequently utilize games and game-based learning to create unique and memorable learning experiences for our students. Last year, our fourth cohort of the Karabots Junior Fellows Program playtested The Pox Hunter, a game about convincing Philadelphians in the early 18th century the importance of vaccines. They also designed their own forensic science themed board and card games, learned about the spread of disease by playing Pandemic 2, honed their powers of observation by taking part in a room escape, and tested their mental might with a series of thematic review games. Our fifth and most recent cohort has continued the legacy set forth by their predecessors, recently assisting Drexel University researchers playtest a game about how HIV infects health cells.
CD4 Hunter is a microbiology-themed mobile game currently under development by the Center for Business and Program Development of Drexel University’s Institute for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Diseases and the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. It cast the player in the role of an HIV virus. The player’s goal is to infect healthy cells in order to spread create more virus cells while resisting antibiotics. IMMID developed the game to instruct the public by means of game-based learning on how HIV spreads in the body.
Under the guidance of Mary Ann Comunale, EDD, MS, who helps oversee the project, students started with a brief questionnaire to gauge their knowledge of HIV transmission and serve as a means of measuring what they learned by playing the game. Then they paired up with iPads or on their phones and played CD4 Hunter. As they played, they wrote down their thoughts on every aspect of the game, including visuals, sound, controls, how effected it conveyed its message, and (of course) fun. Students competed for high scores, with the top scorers earning a Dunkin Donuts gift card for their efforts. Dr. Comunale followed their play session with another questionnaire to gauge how much they learned about the subject while playing the game. Everyone gave useful feedback and many of them downloaded the game on their phones to play later. Afterwards, the Fellows met with a panel of three graduate students specializing in epidemiology, virology, and vaccines, who shared insights into their research and life in graduate school.